Evernote is perhaps the most popular productivity app right now. You may already know that, actually you may even be using it. The product was launched into open beta on June 24, 2008 and reached 11 million users in July 2011. Evernote now has over 45 million users. The company’s current product (Evernote Business) lets users share information within a company or with clients, while IT controls permissions. You can join Evernote Business
The Evernote products help you remember and act upon ideas, projects and experiences across all the computers, phones and tablets you use. Users can take notes, clip webpages, snap photos using their mobile phones, create to-dos, and record audio.
Phil Libin (co-founder of Evernote) shared these founder lessons and how Evernote became the most popular productivity app in various interviews. You could apply some of these tips to your own startup.
- Concept: I think from the very idea, this concept that this is the one we want and if you’re building something that you love and you’re building it for yourself you shouldn’t want to sell it, you should want to keep it.
- Launch: We launched closed beta on TechCrunch, we were lucky enough that TechCrunch wrote about us right as we were starting the closed beta and we gave away 100 invites, that was the first spark.
- Company: We don’t just want to build a 100 year company, we want to build a 100 year startup.
- Product: We don’t care if you pay, we just want you to stay around and keep using it and get all your friends to use it. The longer you stay, the more likely that you’re going to fall in love with it and then pay.
- Product: Everything we make is basically made for me, it’s what I want to use. For me and for the rest of the team, we’re passionate about the idea of remembering things.
- Product: We are building a product that you use for the rest of your life.
- Product: The only products we make at Evernote, [we make for ourselves]. We are the customers. We just hope that if we love something, others will.
- Design: Focus entirely on what is the experience of using that and then add the features almost as a secondary criterion.
- Feedback: We get quite a bit features from users and we really want to hear from users and see what they think. We’ve found that different types of user feedback is relevant in different ways. The least relevant is when you ask users what should we build, having users do product design or feature roadmap for you doesn’t really work.
- Product: We spend money on the same things that we always do, it all goes to the product.
- Culture: We have a flat and very open structure. Nobody has an office. In fact, there are no perks that are signs of seniority.
- Culture: We try to have an organization that just helps you get your work done, and then it’s my job to eliminate all of the risks and all the distractions so you can just focus on achieving.
- Culture: One of the things I’ve tried to do is uproot any sort of e-mail culture at Evernote. We strongly discourage lengthy e-mail threads with everyone weighing in.
- Culture: The thing that we do that people love the most, though, is housekeeping. If you work at Evernote, you get professional housecleaning twice a month.
- Growth: It’s all just word of mouth and people finding Evernote because of friends who love it recommending it.
- Growth: Whenever a new device or platform would come out, we would work days and nights for months before that to make sure Evernote was there and supporting the new device.
- Hiring: The most important baseline skill for any position is communication. We want you to be able to explain what you mean; we want you to be articulate. That cuts out a lot of people, because a lot of people are probably pretty good technically.
- Hiring: To guarantee the long term success of the company, the only way to do it is to make sure that the team continues to be the right kind of people.
- Funding: When we think about funding, we really think about in the context of wanting to isolate ourselves from having to make any short term decisions and being influenced by fluctuations in the market.
- Funding: We don’t go out and look for money, we get a ton of inbound requests on a daily basis from people who want to invest.
- Investor Pitch: Match the investors that you’re talking to with the strengths that you currently have and the stage of the company that you’re currently in.
- Investor Pitch: For us it was about showing we had traction, we understood what our users were doing, we understood what they wanted. We could deliver a product, meet on time, deliver our plans and fundamentally we got the unit economics right.
- Acquisition: We have turned down every acquisition offer.
- Lesson: The fundamental thing that I wish I’d of known, is I underestimated the importance of simplicity and design.
- Lesson: The most important thing for consumer facing software was that it was beautiful, simple, people immediately and intuitively understood how to use it.